On a crazy whim, we decided last minute, that we would take an hour long high speed train from Rome to Naples, just for some pizza. We rationalized that we couldn't be that close to the birthplace of pizza and not stop in. In Naples, pizza ingredients are strongly regulated by the government, ensuring that the Neapolitan Pizza is of the highest quality and made by strict standards and we just had to see what that was all about. We traveled to Naples on our second to last day in Italy and not only had we gotten up extra early to take a train down there (we wanted to beat the lunch crowd lines which we heard could get very lengthy), we were thoroughly exhausted from traveling for two weeks.
When we arrived in Naples, we got off the train and exchanged glances at each other that questioned what we had gotten ourselves into. The city itself was pure chaos with people everywhere aggressively selling things, scooters and cars flying past wide lane roads without much regard to traffic rules or crossing pedestrians. Bedlam aside, the city had such a grittiness and we found ourselves stepping over large piles of garbage and filth. We were a little unnerved by all the commotion but we stayed focused. After all, we only had a brief couple of hours to scout out some of the city's best pizza, try as much as we could stomach (all in the name of research, of course) before jumping back on the train and heading back to Rome. We had a lot to accomplish.
|Double Mozzarella Pizza at Pizzeria da Michele|
|One at a time..|
|The "grumpy glarer"|
|Food Paparazzi |
Luckily for us, the main pizza shops that are most popular and historic are not far from the train station and within minutes, we were in the doorway of Pizzeria da Michele, which is referred to as the best pizza shop in the world (and yes, featured in the Julia Robert's movie, Eat, Pray, Love
). After a bit of a communication struggle, we were early enough to get a seat and all we had to do was wait for of four employees to take our order. The room full of people was eerily quiet, everyone focusing on the action - one man rolling out the dough and topping it, another slinging the pies one by one into the oven, and another seemingly glaring at everyone. Like a page from the "Soup Nazi" playbook, everyone knew better than to speak up and we patiently waited (40 minutes!) for one of the men to finally come over and take our order. There was never a rush or sense of urgency, just a grumpy, "You'll get it when you get it" attitude. Once they had our order, it was only minutes until we had a still steaming, double mozzarella pizza in front of us.
|Our second stop|
What happened next can only be described as the best pizza moment of my life. As I tore into the crust, adorned with dots of smoky char, it was crunchy, hot and perfectly doughy. The sauce had a balance of tart and sweet that accented the incredibly stretchy and milky cheese that was melted on top in artistically arranged splotches. With each component bearing it's own distinctive flavor and coming together in the most delightful of ways, I'm not sure I will ever find a pizza as good as this.
After leaving Pizzeria da Michele, we visited two more pizza spots, one a more new age pizza with a thicker dough that rose boldly above the rest of the pizza, framing the bright red sauce and pure white cheese, this pizza was exceptional, but still couldn't touch the experience we had just had. Lastly, we stopped into Pizzeria Trianon da Ciro, which is often compared to being on par with our beloved Pizzeria da Michele. The atmosphere was exactly what you'd want it to be, a couple of guys in the corner, almost on display, making the pizza by hand and expertly cooking them in a beautiful tile decorated oven. Here, we ordered the Pizza di Bufala, which is a white pie with Buffalo mozzarella cheese and slivers of fresh sliced tomatoes on top and embellished with fragrant basil. The cheese was the star here, intensely flavored, it was like no other cheese I've ever had.
We left Naples full and so happy that we had taken the time to get there. It was a little scary, but more exciting than anything else to race to a foreign city with only a few hours time, just for some (of the best we've ever had) pizza. Totally worth it and the perfect ending to two unforgettable weeks in Italy.